Over the past two weeks, the government has been desperately trying to harden its position on the European Union to match public opinion. David Cameron has been rather bullish with his plans to opt out for 130 EU law-and-order measures and the veto threat over the budget, despite being outfoxed by both Labour and his backbenchers on the latter. Has it been successful? As Isabel reported yesterday, the voters of Corby, Witney and Doncaster North are not entirely happy with the Conservatives’ current position and new national polling reflects a similar attitude.
This weekend’s YouGov poll compares public attitudes today towards the EU to this time last year. As the chart below shows, trust in David Cameron’s ability to look after our interests at a European level has dropped 13 percentage points:
Most concerning for all the party leaders, 40 per cent believe none of them are suitable for fighting our corner in Brussels. A quarter of those polled think Cameron is the most trusted leader on dealing with Europe, followed by 18 per cent for Ed Miliband and just 6 per cent for Nick Clegg.
This tougher stance is reflected in the public’s desires from the Prime Minister. Half now think Cameron should be tougher in dealing with European countries and just 13 per cent state he is getting the balance right at the moment:
The 53 Tory rebels who said they were listening to their constituents by voting for a real terms cut appear to have been vindicated, with only 18 per cent of voters believing it should be increased and 66 per cent thinking it should kept at its current level or be cut.
Last week, Kate Hoey warned Parliament that ‘we are beginning to look really, really out of touch” during the debate on the EU budget. Just 11 per cent of those polled believe Cameron is in touch with ordinary people, compared to 25 per cent for his rebellious backbenchers. 45 per cent believe neither are in particularly in touch.
These figures confirm what Hoey was warning about — Cameron needs to act swiftly to ensure he is not left behind on what the public expects of him on Europe. If he does not, the Prime Minister may open the door to his UKIP foes who are continuing to grow in strength.